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A parched Syria turned to war, scholar says; Egypt may be next

A parched Syria turned to war, scholar says; Egypt may be next | Meagan's Geoography 400 |
Prof. Arnon Sofer sets out the link between drought, Assad’s civil war, and the wider strains in the Middle East; Jordan and Gaza are also in deep trouble, he warns

Via Seth Dixon
Meagan Harpin's insight:

In this article Professor Arnon Sofer begins to make the link between the conflicts in Syria and all other middle eastern countries with high birth rate and drought. Over the last 60 years the middle easts population has doubled but their water supply has not in fact it is 85% desert and Turkey has siezed much of the water that flowed into Syria. Many people have begun digging illegal water wells pushing the water table even lower and civil wars throughout Syria have broken out in the areas hit hardest by drought. 

Nathan Chasse's curator insight, April 1, 2014 11:25 AM

The article explains how population growth, climate change, drought, and water shortages could have contributed to the rise of war in Syria. This is an interesting interpretation, one which certainly could have been a contributing factor, but not all the Arab Spring can be attributed to water shortages so it is not a direct cause. The water shortages in Syria and a lack of government response certainly could have fanned flames which already existed due to an oppressive regime and regional conflicts. Climate change gets a lot of attention for the potential damage it could do to the environment, but I had not given much thought to the conflicts it could cause between nations and peoples.

Jess Deady's curator insight, May 4, 2014 3:22 PM

Egypt may be the next country to be in deep trouble. With so many militant attacks coming out of Egypt to being with there is no surprise that the Middle East thinks it will be next on the list.

Pamela Hills's curator insight, July 18, 2014 8:37 AM

 A world at war and hot spots are growing with people caught in middle <3

Rescooped by Meagan Harpin from Geography Education!

Iran's 'Jerusalem Day': Behind the rallies and rhetoric

Iran's 'Jerusalem Day': Behind the rallies and rhetoric | Meagan's Geoography 400 |
Iran's annual al-Quds - or Jerusalem - Day, denouncing Israel, is as much an expression of policy as ritual, writes BBC Persian's Siavash Ardalan.

Via Seth Dixon
Meagan Harpin's insight:

Every year Jerusalem Day brings millions of people into the streets for support of the Palestinians and  the denouncing of the Isreals. The idea was proposed in 1979 during deepening tension between Lebon and Isreal. Jerusalem day is supposed to be about Jerusalem but the slogans are all about death to Isreal, it has turned into an occasion about the political mood in Iran. Any politican in Iran that wants to gain power must be heard giving speeches aboout Isreal, and with the ever changing social media it helps to spread media clips, video, and photos of this important day throughout Iran    

Nathan Chasse's curator insight, April 1, 2014 12:43 PM

This article describes Iran's "Jerusalem Day," a day in which people gather in the streets to voice their denial and hatred of the nation of Israel. The day has become a tradition and politicians make sound byte laden speeches to rally support.

Joseph Thacker 's curator insight, April 4, 2014 8:39 PM

The people of Iran gather to celebrate Jerusalem Day. Each year millions of people come together to express their hatred towards Israel and support towards Palestinians. They rally and some people including politicians give speeches. Speeches by President Ahmadinejad even included the denial of the holocaust.  

Jess Deady's curator insight, May 4, 2014 3:19 PM

This day is pro-Palestinian and is a must-go-to event for politicians. Any politician that wants to be heard or even listened to in the future must make their way to this parade of protests and Iranian rituals.

Rescooped by Meagan Harpin from Geography Education!

The Corner Where Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan Meet

The Corner Where Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan Meet | Meagan's Geoography 400 |
In the dusty triangle where Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan meet, there is more than one war going on.


Geopolitically, there is a fascinating confluence of competing interests at this border.  This is "the scariest little corner of the world." It's a dangerous place that is often beyond the authority of any of state.  It also represents (depending on how you divide the world up) at the intersection of the three major regions in the area: Central Asia, the Middle East and South Asia.      


Tags: Afghanistan, political, borders, MiddleEast, SouthAsia, Central Asia, unit 4 political.

Via Seth Dixon
Meagan Harpin's insight:

This is a dangerous place with no authority. This area is filled with fighting, bombing and constant war. But this area is also an important intersection for three major regions Central Asia, Middle East, and South Asia. 

Cam E's curator insight, March 4, 2014 11:35 AM

A meeting of different worlds at a border. I can't imagine the things one would see or hear living or growing up on a border of conflict such as this. Refugees are a common site, and no authority can dominate the others, making the area effectively lawless.

Edelin Espino's curator insight, December 13, 2014 3:19 PM

This note talk about the place in the desert where three hostile countries confront each other on the infinite war.

Rescooped by Meagan Harpin from Geography Education!

Not all Olympic champions stand on the podium

Not all Olympic champions stand on the podium | Meagan's Geoography 400 |
Tahmina Kohistani’s Olympics lasted exactly 14 and 42/100ths of a second.


This is a great article that highlights the Olympic successes that are underreported.  Due to geographic circumstances, simply competing is a remarkable accomplishment.  The women participants from Afghanistan and Iran are highlighted in this article. 

Via Seth Dixon
Meagan Harpin's insight:

The olympic games have become only about the podium winners in the media, if you dont win you dont matter. Tahmina Kohistani was the only female athlete from Afghanistan to compete in the games back in 2012. It is an amazing feat in itself that a female from Afghanistan even managed to get to the games never mind partacipate. She didnt win, she finished last, but it was her personal best time and the fastest she had ever run the 100 meter. But because she was not up on that podium none of that matter and many people did not even know she had run the race.  

lelapin's comment, August 11, 2012 1:27 PM
great article indeed. Thanks for turning the spotlight away from the podium, for a change.
Kendra King's curator insight, February 28, 11:12 AM

The coverage of the Olympics after opening ceremonies is heavily centered on the medal count and I don’t actually see a problem with that. Reason being is that the story, that supposedly never got coverage, was something I remember commentators speaking about when the Afghanistan team walked out on stage during the opening ceremonies thereby showing how “politics and social culture” are intertwined. Her journey qualified her as a “champion” right away and people saw that. Secondly, when there is a ridiculous amount of events and people to cover, one needs to pick and choose. Since the point of the Olympics is to win, it isn’t surprising that the most coverage is given on the metal winners. There are stories outside of Kohistani’s in which someone who didn’t make it to podium was covered (i.e. winter Olympics regarding Ryan Bradly or Jonny Wier). Typically when that happens though, the person is from our own country. What I think is wrong with the coverage is the huge focus on just our country. While the Olympics is a time where patriotism surges as we root for our own team, it is a symptom of a large problem. Americans are too America-centric in general. Just looking at the normal daily news cover in the states is a clear indication of the issue and I think that is why some of the more analytic pieces that show “politics and social culture” are generally under reported

Rescooped by Meagan Harpin from Geography Education!

The role of social networking in the Arab Spring

The role of social networking in the Arab Spring | Meagan's Geoography 400 |
A case study for our World Development text book...


How useful was digital technology, particularly social networking sites, to democracy protesters in Tunisia and Egypt?  How important are the democracy protests in the Middle East and North Africa to world development?  Social media has fundamentally changed the cultural and political paradigms. 

Via Seth Dixon
Meagan Harpin's insight:

Social networking sites and digital technology is useful for news gathering, connecting and co-ordinating groups and individuals. Mobile phones can take pictures of what is going on and share them in a second and tv for the reporting of events around the world. 

Nicole Kearsch's curator insight, November 1, 2014 9:40 PM

While we sit here on Facebook and Twitter for a way to connect with friends, share photos of our vacations or follow our favorite celebrities every move places in North Africa and some of the Middle East are using social media to change their country.  In countries like Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt people have used these social media sites to disperse information to the general public.  Where a rally will be held, a map of where police forces will be located, and what to do in the event teargas is used are all topics for discussion on social media.  With the use of these websites a larger group of people are able to take part in the overthrow of the government.  With leaders restricting the access to the web even more people were intrigued to join the protests.  When people can't follow along on the internet the events they decided to go take part in the events themselves.  With the use of these social media websites the Arab Spring in these areas was able to be as successful as it was.

Kendra King's curator insight, April 27, 5:27 PM

I think it is important that technology plays a role in these revolutions. Before, if a revolution happened, the dictator could just silence its population. Now the population has things like Facebook and Twitter to mobilize their plans of attack for meeting places and advice about how to confront the government. As such, the power of the citizens has grown and according to the article some argue it was this power that made the government officials in Egypt and Tunisia stand down. I tend to agree since the coverage of the event helped increase the size of the demonstrations.  


I love that these protests for democracy are being led by the citizens. Since the citizens actually want this type of government, there is actually a chance that this might  be what the country needs. As you mentioned during the Solar Diem video, what works for one society may not translate to another. The author of this piece is more than likely from a western democracy given how the author thinks "democratic change offers the only solution"  to issues like poverty and internal strife within "Arab" countries. Yet, that isn't the case in the Middle East. By forcing a democratic revolution on Iraq,  the region is more destabilized than it was under the harsh command of Saddam Hussein. As you mentioned in class, Iraq needed a dictator like Hussein to keep peace though. So as helpful as technology might be  for democratic revolutions, democratic revolution might not be the answer to every countries problems.

Chris Costa's curator insight, October 26, 2:46 PM

The Arab Spring owes its origins to the mass use of social media websites to get organized and launch the protests that ultimately overthrew several dictators in the region. Social media was crucial for the movement to spread like wild fire, as young people all over North Africa and the Middle East banded together against the tyranny of their governments. Protests broke out in every capital of the region, noticeably in Cairo, where the protests briefly transcended ethnic and religious disputes in the name of freedom for all. Although the movement has long since fizzled out in the face of increased violence, instability, and the lack of a consensus among protesters as to what their next move should be, the Arab Spring served as a powerful example as to extent of which the Internet will now play in global affairs. It is a powerful tool that has completely revolutionized the way we live our everyday lives, and it has completely changed the game for much of North Africa and the Middle East.

Rescooped by Meagan Harpin from Geography Education!

Complexity in Syria

Complexity in Syria | Meagan's Geoography 400 |
A color-coded map of the country's religious and ethnic groups helps explain why the fighting is so bad.

Via Seth Dixon
Meagan Harpin's insight:

Syria is a complicated country as you can see from this map. The map shows the different ethnic and linguistic groups of Syria, and many of the groups are swirled together. The brown areas represent the Kurds who have been long oppresed, there are also Druze and  Arab Christians, Armenians and others. Syria is run by the Alawites which is the greenish grey color they may only be 12% of the population but they are a massive part of the war. Many people believe that the war began for political reasons but spiraled into old divisons deeper and more vicious.  

Jessica Rieman's curator insight, April 2, 2014 6:19 PM

This map shows tha tthere are an overwhelimg amount of Arabs especially in centeral Syria. And then on the coast lline it is mostly mixed with pink representing the overwhlming other majority.

Joseph Thacker 's curator insight, April 2, 2014 8:11 PM

It appears from this article that Syria is a complicated country. The map shows the different ethnic and religious groups of Syria, along with other groups, all of which live within a small area. Syria, along with other countries within the Middle East have been faced with one serious issue or another. Many different people live within a very small area; those people practice different religions and are ethnically and culturally different. Unfortunately, being different in this part of the world may get you killed.   

Paige Therien's curator insight, May 4, 2014 1:25 PM

Maps such as this one are very valuable when trying to understand conflict.  In Syria and the greater Levant area, unbalanced power and representation in politics is the result of many different religious and ethnic groups living in such close proximity each other, allowing conflict to become very invasive.

Rescooped by Meagan Harpin from Geography Education!

In historic shift, Saudis to allow some girls' sports

In historic shift, Saudis to allow some girls' sports | Meagan's Geoography 400 |

"Private girls' schools are now allowed to hold sports activities in accordance with the rules of Shariah, or Islamic law. Students must adhere to 'decent dress' codes and Saudi women teachers will be given priority in supervising the activities, according to the Education Ministry's requirements.  The decision makes sports once again a stage for the push to improve women's rights, nearly a year after two Saudi female athletes made an unprecedented appearance at the Olympics."  This news comes at a time when Saudi Arabia has allowed women to ride bikes (sort of).


Tags: Saudi Arabia, culture, gender, religion, Middle East.

Via Seth Dixon
Meagan Harpin's insight:

For the first time ever Saudi Arabian girls in private schools will be allowed to play sports, this comes at a time when they are trying to increase womens rights. The girls must still follow the  rules of Shariah, they must dress decent, and women teachers will be given priority in supervising the sports. Female athelites are still banned from registering for sports clubs or league competitions.however.   

Lena Minassian's curator insight, March 22, 4:24 PM

I was happy to see an article like this. It's about time that these women are being given equal opportunities. Although they have a long way to go this is a step in the right direction. Saudi Arabian girls are being allowed to have sport related activities within their private schools. This did surprise me a little just because Saudi women's rights are very limited but this is a simple improvement just to the general health and well being of these girls. Two females competed in the last years summer Olympics representing Saudi Arabia and their efforts were not shown on Saudi TV. These women competing has opened a few doors to allowing more than just men to engage in these activities. Usually sports were only for the elite women who could afford gym memberships or attend well known colleges. Even though women cannot compete internationally or sign up for clubs or leagues this is a step in the right direction.

Kevin Cournoyer's curator insight, May 6, 4:47 PM

This is an interesting article about slowly allowing women in Saudi Arabia to participate in sports. While playing soccer or swimming or running may not seem so important to us in the West, it is a big deal for Saudi women. Saudi Arabia has some of the strictest laws in the Middle East regarding women's rights, and so even a very partial and gradual allowance for women to engage in sports is a big step. It shows perhaps a slight softening of adherence to Shariah law, which would hopefully eventually allow women more freedom in the realms of education and work, as well as in everyday life. 


Too often are people quick to judge and characterize other cultures or religions by the most extreme examples. While it is true that laws in Saudi Arabia are extremely restrictive to women, progress such as this, though small, may well act as a stepping stone for increased freedoms for women. People outside of Saudi Arabia and Islamic culture must realize that this kind of progress does happen and is, in fact, happening right now. To simply dismiss Saudi culture as misogynistic and oppressive is to write the whole culture off. While progress is slow and less than ideal, we should look to Saudi Arabia's Islamic neighbors and see that many of them are not so oppressive to women. Allowing Saudi women to participate in sports, therefore, may be setting up the country to increase women's rights and join its relatively more liberal neighbors. This is certainly a sign of positive change, and one that should not be ignored. 

Mark Hathaway's curator insight, October 23, 6:28 AM

I was quite shocked to hear of this story. There is no denying, that this is a step forward for the women of Saudi Arabia. However, women are far from free in this country. The activates still have to be in accordance with Islamic Law. The strict dress code also remains in effect for the girls. The Sports themselves, must be overseen by women teachers. I would not call this initiative the Saudi equivalent of title nine, but it is a step forward. Every little inroad, is a step towards more equality. The government of Saudi Arabia appears to be at least slightly altering its view of women. Hopefully this will be the first step in movement to gain Saudi women more rights. In generations to come, hopefully Saudi women will look back on this development as the start of a cultural revolution in Saudi Arabia.     

Rescooped by Meagan Harpin from Geography Education!

Anger Over Film Fuels Anti-American Attacks in Libya and Egypt

Anger Over Film Fuels Anti-American Attacks in Libya and Egypt | Meagan's Geoography 400 |
Protesters upset over an American-made video denouncing Islam attacked the United States Consulate in Libya, while Egyptian demonstrators stormed over the walls of the United States Embassy in Cairo.


The idea of anti-U.S. protests in the Middle East and Northa Africa on the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 was initially quite shocking. As always, a greater understanding of the cultural context and timing helps explain (not necessarily justify) the situation. The video produced by "Sam Bacile" that has sparked the controversy is truly reprehensible and as cultural insensitive as it gets. Still, the protests, by blindly lashing out at the United States embassy, only exacerbate the cultural problems. 

UPDATE: This public gathering of Libyan's in Benghazi to apologize for the death of Chris Stevens is quite poignant.  


Questions to Ponder: How does one single YouTube video impact geopolitics?  Culturally speaking, what makes this such a powerfully charged issue?  Will this issue become fodder for the election? 


Tags: MiddleEast, political, culture, Islam, religion.

Via Seth Dixon
Meagan Harpin's insight:

Protestors were upset over an American made video denouncing Islam and attacked the United States Consulate in Libya and demonstrators stromed over walls of the United States Embassy in Cario. The video was insensitive and sparked anger throughout many. With the way the internet reaches and how social media works many more people in far reach areas are able to view these videos and create problems like this.

Don Brown Jr's comment, September 18, 2012 6:33 PM

This video effects geopolitics in the region in a number of ways as the US may find itself bearing the brunt of the Islamic world reaction from this video since the producer was a American. The fact that Jewish donors provided funds for the film will likely further strain relations between Israel, the United States and the Islamic countries. Likewise in the upcoming 2012 election how both parties choose to address this while trying to appeal to “Christian” voters will add another layer of complexity to this issue.
This video is a clear example of just how interconnected the world we live in today really is and how a single actions can affect many others creating unforeseen consequences. Hopefully the lesson that can be learned from the “Innocence of Islam” U-Tube trailer is that people need to be more cultural sensitive when it comes to displaying public information that can be easy diffused around the world. The largely negative reaction from the global Muslim community has shown us that we cannot afford to be ignorant or cultural incentive to others in an increasing globalized and connected world. However another lesson that both the US, Libya, Egypt and the world at large should take note of is that nations should not become the focal point of acts of violence due to the actions of a few individual whether it is a terrorist or Sam Bacile. We in the West need to take into account that in the Muslim world there isn’t really a separation between church and state like there is in the here so religious matters affect every aspect of society. We should also take into mind that this was also the case in Europe not to many centuries ago, remember the Middle Ages and the inquisition.
Rebecca Farrea's curator insight, October 31, 2013 10:31 AM

On the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th in the United States, anti-U.S. protestors attacked Benghazi due to their anger toward an American-made YouTube video that denounced Islam.  It is amazing to see the impact that one single Internet creation can have.  It shows the power that particular media and social outlets such as YouTube and Facebook have.

Chris Costa's curator insight, October 26, 2:18 PM

I remember reading about this, and I had hoped at the time that tensions between the US and much of the Islamic world might have improved by now. However, that has sadly not been the case; violence in Iraq and Syria have continued to breed bad blood between the West and North Africa. The attack in Benghazi helped to give conservative groups the necessary ammunition to continue their attacks on Islam and certainly did not help public perception of the faith, breeding further hatred within our own country. Although many Libyans congregated to apologize for the violence, the region has not stabilized and anti-US sentiments are still rampant in pockets, much like they are throughout the region. The legacy of this attack has had serious ramifications for US-Muslim relations, and I can only hope that the situation does indeed change in the next 3 years, much like I had hoped they would within the previous 3.

Rescooped by Meagan Harpin from Geography Education!

Egypt's NGO crackdown

Egypt's NGO crackdown | Meagan's Geoography 400 |
Tensions rise in Cairo as Egyptian forces raided the offices of human rights and pro-democracy groups.


When there is a new political regime, what impact does it have on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) operating within that country?  While many NGOs attempt to stay out of partisan politicals so as not to compromise the future of their organization or cause, sometimes the cause is in direct conflict with the policies of the regime.  

Via Seth Dixon
Meagan Harpin's insight:

Egyptian security forces stormed the offices of 17 human rights and pro-democracy groups across the country causing harsh critism and threats toward Egypt from the US that they would freeze aid. 

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